On Saturday, October 13th, the American Popular Songbook Society will celebrate Italian History Month by presenting the music of Harry Warren. His music has been recorded by superstars such as Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Jerry Vale, Connie Francis, Carol Lawrence, Russ Columbo, Carlo Buti and Perry Como. Eight of his songs were nominated for Academy Awards, with three winnings Oscars – Lullaby of Broadway, You’ll Never Know and On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe and his melodies can be heard in more movies than any other composer. His compositions are among the best known in the great American songbook yet he is perhaps most famous… for not being famous!
Alex Leonard will perform the music of this remarkable composer in connection with the stories and background of the legendary artists who made the tunes famous. Mr. Leonard is a member of the Order Sons of Italy, Fr. Vincent R. Capodanno Lodge #212 in Staten Island. A two time MAC Award nominee, he has been a featured guest on many programs including CUNY-TV’s “Italics” and Bloomberg Radio’s “The Business of Show Business.”
Born on Christmas Eve in 1893 as Salvatore Antonio Guaragna, in Brooklyn, New York, Harry was one of eleven children of Italian immigrants, bootmaker Antonio and Rachel De Luca Guaragna. His father changed the family name to Warren when Harry was a child. Although his parents could not afford music lessons, he had an early interest in music and taught himself to play his father’s accordion. He also sang in the church choir and learned to play the drums. He began to play the drums professionally by age 14 and dropped out of high school at 16 to play in a traveling carnival. Soon he taught himself to play the piano and by 1915, he was working at the Vitagraph Motion Picture Studios, where he did a variety of administrative jobs, such as props man and also played mood music on the piano for the actors. He also acted in bit parts and eventually was an assistant director. In 1918, he joined the U.S. Navy, where he began writing songs.
Harry wrote over 800 songs between 1918 and 1981, publishing over 500 of them. Primarily written for feature films, his songs eventually appeared in over 300 movies, as well as 112 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. Forty-two of his songs were on the top ten list of the radio program “Your Hit Parade,” 21 of these reached #1. His song “I Only Have Eyes for You” is listed on the list of the 25 most-performed songs of the 20th Century. Some of Harry’s compositions include An Affair to Remember, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Forty Second Street, Innamorata, Jeepers Creepers, Shuffle Off To Buffalo, I’ve Got A Gal in Kalamazoo, You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, That’s Amore and We’re In The Money. His list of hits seems endless.
The American Popular Songbook Society is located at 322 West 48th Street in New York City. The celebration begins at 2:00 pm (doors open at 1:00 pm). Tickets are $15 or you can join as a member of the APSS at apssinc.org.